Hi friends, and welcome to this month’s Joyinmovement newsletter.
I had a few topics on my mind for this month’s letter, and then three things happened that helped me decide. My nephew mentioned he would be up until midnight and I could call him at that time (which of course I did not), I myself, for no apparent reason, had a crummy night’s sleep, and I reviewed all my Joyinmovement newsletters so far in 2013.
The very first one in January of 2013 was this one:
Gift number 8 was……..
“8. On the eighth day of the new year my true love gave to me: 8 hours of sleep. Since getting quality sleep is at the top of my list for optimal health practices, you had to guess that sleep would be included here as well. I know that some of us need less sleep and some more, so figure your needs and make your sleep of the highest quality.”
And then my topic for this month came clear. I had wanted to elaborate on sleep but never had, so here we go. You may think you’ve read it all before or know what I’ll say. In that case, I’ve started with the CONCLUSIONS and reasons why we shouldn’t leave sleep to chance. When you read beyond the conclusions you’ll get more background information.
Sleep is just as important as nutrition and exercise when it comes to great health, how you’ll perform, and how healthy your body ages.
We’ve probably all experienced the differences between a good night’s sleep and a poor one. When we sleep well we feel good and have the energy we need for our daily activities. Poor sleep, especially when it’s cumulative, ages us, messes with our hormone balance, and has us craving energy, which too often means we look to food and so we accumulate body fat.
These are the conclusions and guidelines that sleep researchers all agree upon and I think we intuitively know.
1. Good sleep is crucial for good health. There is plenty of information out there on what is called “sleep hacking”(getting the least amount of sleep possible and still functioning). I suppose for some folks it works, but for most of us, let’s just get enough sleep!
2. Make good sleep a priority. Maybe some people can wing it. They can sleep anywhere, at any time, and keep varied sleep schedules. For the rest of us, we need to look at what makes quality sleep happen!
3. Think about good sleep as a 24-hour process. This is one of my favorite pieces of advice I came upon. We know this but sometimes I think we forget. I’ll elaborate more on this in a minute but for now, our choices during the day make a difference when night time comes.
4. Reinforce your natural circadian needs. When it’s dark outside and time for sleep, your indoor actions should be quiet and restful. Bright lights, activity, and brain stimulation are some of the noisy activities that will hinder your sleep.
5. Give your body and mind transition time. This relates to #4. Allow at least 30 minutes (and preferably an hour) in the evening to slowly wind down and prepare for sleep.
6. Stick to a routine. This may be the hardest one for us to follow. However, our bodies do work well with routines and particularly a sleep routine. You can experiment with this and see if you don’t sleep better if you stick to a routine.
7. You can’t control your actual sleep. But you can control your sleep behaviors and environment. We can enhance the quality of our sleep by recognizing what we may be doing to detract from a great night’s sleep.
Now let’s take a look at a few of the above guidelines in more depth. Since I suggested that creating and sticking to a sleep routine is the hardest suggestion to follow, let’s start there.
Turning the on switch to OFF is a challenge for many of us. It helps if you go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Consistency here is important because then your body will know when to start the hormonal cascade that will relax you for sleep and wake you up when you’ve had enough. Uninterrupted sleep is the most nourishing kind!
Deep sleep is what we’re after, so too much caffeine or alcohol will interfere with this. Also, if you eat too much too late in the evening, your sleep will suffer. I’ve learned to eat a good sized dinner many hours before I go to sleep so that I rarely get hungry before bed. If you do need a snack before bed, keep it small.
Do you lay awake at night thinking about all the things on your TO DO list, or that should be on your TO DO list? It happens to all of us. Perhaps a “brain dump” is in order. Get it all out of your brain and written down somewhere. If I go to sleep and find that my mind is obsessing about something I have to do but isn’t written down, I’ll get up and write it down. Better yet, keep a pad and pen by the bed.
Go on a late night DDD: Digital Device Diet. This is the biggie for us all. They are too stimulating for our brains. Use your own judgement depending on how wired you get, but at a minimum, shut them down at least 30 minutes before bed.
We all have things we enjoy that de-stress and calm us. Maybe it’s movement like stretching or deep breathing, or taking a bath or shower, or writing in a gratitude journal. Whatever it is for you, these are choice activities to do before bed.
This guideline is for my nephew (who I know is reading)!! Go to bed before midnight! Why?
Researchers have found that every hour of sleep after midnight is worth two before midnight. That old saying about early to bed and early to rise still stands the test of time, according to the research.
Most people need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. And that means actual sleep, not the preparations you do before going to bed. We pay a big price in terms of our health if we don’t consistently get 7-9 hours of sleep.
Now that we’ve covered your sleep routine, let’s take a look at the optimal sleep environment. Is yours conducive to a great night’s sleep? Keep reading and you’ll find out.
1. Keep your room as dark as possible. I’ve struggled with this for years because I enjoy waking up and seeing the sunlight. I do know that the dark room makes a difference so I keep it mostly dark. The reason for this is that melatonin is the hormone produced by your brain that signals sleep. Keeping a dark room maximizes this process. Here are some ideas:
- Dim lights at night. Install low-wattage bulbs in your bedroom, and keep things as dim as possible in the hour before your bedtime.
- Cover your windows well.
- Use a motion-sensitive or dim night light if you need something to illuminate your path to the bathroom.
- Put your cell phone in another room or flip it face down.
- Cover or dim the alarm clock, or look for one that illuminates only when touched.
Is your bedroom cluttered? If so, get rid of the clutter and it will be a much more peaceful space for sleeping. You might not even think all the clutter affects you, but clear it out and see for yourself.
Is your bedroom too hot or cold for you? This will affect your sleep. Most people sleep better when it’s cool. It’s easier to get warm than to cool down when you go to bed. Experiment and see what works for you.
Are you waking up to an alarm clock? This can be very stressful. See if going to bed at a consistent time gets you up at a consistent time. As you cycle through your sleep hormones and sleep cycles, this should get easier to do without needing to always use an alarm clock.
I also think it helps to get out of bed and get moving once you wake up. I’ve always been like that. The whole snooze button idea just doesn’t make sense to me. And usually I’m quite excited about my daily activities so I’m glad to get up and get going. And it also helps to get some sunlight as soon as you get up. This will help bring your energy to a wakeful state.
If you work or spend your days indoors, make sure you get outside and in the light of day as much as you can. Sunshine is a wonderful elixir and exposure to light will help you wind down in the evening. Lately I’ve been walking my dog after dinner so I get to see the sunset. That helps me recognize that the day is coming to a close and to get ready to relax and transition into the evening and eventually to a great night’s sleep.
Now that I’ve done all this writing I see that perhaps my crummy night’s sleep last night was due to being too hot. So, I’m heading out for a walk to get at least an hour of sunlight and know that I’ll sleep better tonight! I hope this information will help you get the nourishing sleep you deserve.